Front Row or Third Row??

Front row or Third Row??

Front row or Third Row??

When I look at this picture, far too many times I have lived in the third row, especially on a roller coaster!!!  Life can seem to be full of ups and downs that just upset me, worry me, make me scared, and, quite honestly, unenjoyable.  I just hate the long drop off! My mind fills with fear and my body fills with tension. Life can be a “white knuckle” kind of experience, especially when experiencing something that is a change or transition.

We can get consumed with worry and doubt, fear and trepidation, create all kinds of scenarios that have dire outcomes, and live, well, like the third row.  We look glum, unhappy, worried, not even noticing the life around us. Third row living rods us of so many things.

What would it be like for you and me to live in the first row, especially when we are faced with some kind of challenge, change or transition??  Instead of seeking out the third row, why not try the energy and life of the first row??!! It really is our choice. We choose to create the scenarios that makes us third row people.  If we can do that, then why can’t we create scenarios that make us first row, let the wind blow up our skirt, laugh till our belly hurts, and seek out the excitement people??!!! I can tell you that the journey through that challenge, that change or transition will be much better than the third row!  Giving ourselves over to much more energizing thoughts and choices will lead us to the first row experience! Life will still be a roller coaster, but it will be filled with laughter, joy, and a much better view! I am sure of that!

Life Coaching for me is about helping people see and make choices for movement from the third row to the first row of their journey.  Helping people see a different perspective to their life experience is mind blowing and life changing! I love seeing faces, hearts and spirits move from fear and imprisonment (third row) to greater engagement, risk, purposefulness, and freedom (first row)!  Instead of being strapped into the third row seat and looking down, they are holding their heads high, taking a look at the horizon and seeing a much better landscape, a much lighter and more enjoyable place. Are you feeling stuck in fear and limitations as you try to move through a very challenging life transition, and desire to be free to think more broadly, positively and joyfully?  Then let’s chat, and get you started moving towards that front row experience.


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Resistance

The image I have with this blog post is of the resistance knob on my stationary bike.  It gets used quite a bit as I cycle to various online cycling classes. I must admit, I don’t like it when the instructors say that we are going to do a hill.  Of course that means more resistance. Ugh!

Why do I resist resistance????  After all, in the context of a cycling class, it’s meant to make me stronger and healthier.  More resistance makes me use more muscles and gives me more of a cardio workout. How I look forward to when we can take the resistance off!

Resistance is meant to hold us back.  In cycling, it does. However, the opposing force from me is to push harder through it.  Resistance is meant to make things harder, so that in the end, we feel more accomplished.  We pushed hard and maybe even pushed ourselves beyond our (self-imposed) limits! Ironically, resistance, which is meant to hold us back, gives us the ability to see more of who we are.  It can force us to go where we have not gone before, to new territory. When we engage it.

Where have we encountered resistance in our lives?  At work? At home? In our marriages, relationships, friendships?  Where have we been called to push harder against a force, a resistance, that is trying to hold us back?

I wonder if the resistance we often face in our lives might be something that comes from within.  Might it be our own inner critic, our own self, trying to hold us back? The resistance to maybe try something new?  The resistance to having a difficult conversation with someone? The resistance to leave a job for something new? Resistance call us to back down.  Resistance can be very creative. It can make us fearful, even paralyzed. It can make us see a distorted reality where we fail, or hurt another person, or get hurt.  Resistance shows us the darkest outcome and really sells us short. We can’t do it. We will fail. We will screw it up….big time.

What would it be like if we, like the knob on the bike, engaged the resistance when we found ourselves up against it?  What might we learn about ourselves and our abilities if we engage, rather than run away from, the resistance? When I am asked to turn the resistance up on the bike, my inner critic can say, “Not this time. Let it go for now.  You’ll get it next time.” Of course, that voice and message will be there next time too. Instead, I try listening to the voice that says, “Wow! Let’s do this! Let’s see how far we can go this time!” Both voices are there. I am choosing for the higher truth. Resistance is an opportune moment, a crossroads, where I am asked to either turn back down or push ahead.

I often wonder if resistance might be a God moment that is calling us to an experience of greater and deeper life?  I wonder if these moments are invitations to new life, to learn something new about another person, about our strengths and abilities, about who we are?

Next time you are in the midst of that resistance knob being turned in the positive direction, ask yourself: Do I want to go with this resistance or do I want to back off?  Am I willing to go to a new place of knowing and experiencing myself and my world? Or do I just want to back down and let my life continue as it has been? We are expansionary creatures meant for growth in so many ways.  Why let that resistance push back to what we know, when we can push ahead into a new frontier, a new place of discovery, a new level of strength, a new level of resistance? Maybe it’s an invitation to that line from Star Trek: To boldly go where no one has gone before.


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Regrets

Regrets.  We all have them.  We regret something we did.  We regret something we didn’t do.  We regret choices. We regret relationships.  We regret staying too long in something. We regret not giving the second chance.  We regret hurting another person.

In Bronnie Ware’s Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing, she shares with her readers (myself included) the 5 biggest regrets of the dying.  Can you imagine? Getting to the end of your earthly, physical life, and lamenting things that you didn’t do.  I would bet that all of us can relate to this because, as we live right now, we probably have some kind of regret.  But, what is a regret?

When I look back at the origin of the word, it comes from the French, regreter, meaning to “long after, bewail, lament.”  These are words that we would associated with dying.  We bewail or lament the death of a loved one. But a regret?  What are we actually lamenting or bewailing?

Bronnie’s book lists 5 regrets.  I would imagine there are many more.  And they are not regrets for things. They are regrets for the way one has lived or has not lived.  Regrets of the dying are about life and living!

I have a quote in my office from Norman Cousins:

“Death is not the greatest loss in life.

The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.”

For me, this speaks to my understanding of what a regret is!  The dream that goes unfulfilled because of fear. Not being true to oneself.  Giving over power to someone else that doesn’t deserve it. Making excuses for why one is living the life they are living.  Staying stuck in a job out of fear or obligation.

The greatest loss is when we see something else for ourselves and then we let that vision, that image die because of fear, obligation, lack of confidence, comfort, paralysis, or excuses.  “That will never come true.” “That is too risky.” “I won’t be able to do it.” “My life is good just as it is.”

When we let that deeply desired career die inside of us.  When we settle in a relationship for something less than what we truly desire.  When we give the direction of our life over to someone else because we lack the confidence to venture forth.  When we let the fear of risking paralyze us and hold us hostage. Regrets.

So, what is the opposite of living a life of regrets?  Living a life where these things do not die inside of us while we are living!  Living life with a sense of purpose, direction, joy, fulfillment! Paying attention to what goes on inside of us when we feel ourselves at a crossroads in life.  Not giving into fear. Not giving our power or choices over to someone or something else, especially where it involves our integrity and authenticity! Live a life where our deepest desires are given the chance to be expressed, created and developed!  They are given life!

Regrets are about the parts of us, the parts of our lives that were never given the chance to even experience life!  They were born in us, but died in us long before they saw the light of day. Don’t let this happen. Might these parts of us that are yearning for life be divinely inspired?  Might they come from God? Might they be a call to our highest, truest selves? It would be devastatingly sad to die and never live the life we were meant to live. That would be my greatest regret.  What’s yours?


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John Tennity

“Life is over so quickly. It is possible to reach the end with no regrets. It takes some bravery to live it right, to honour the life you are here to live but the choice is yours. … Appreciate the time you have left by valuing all of the gifts in your life and that includes especially, your own, amazing self.”

Bronnie Ware, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing


I just finished reading this book before the end of 2018.  I figured it would be good food for thought as I transitioned from the passing year into the new one.  It was a great read, one which gave me so much to reflect upon and to see how I can live these pearls of wisdom from the dying.

Little did I know that a young life would be extinguished shortly after I read this book.  I found out Monday (New Year’s Eve) that John Tennity, a 24 year old from Canandaigua, died suddenly.  I have known John for probably close to 14 years. I met John and his parents, Deana and Pat, while I was at St.Mary’s Church in Canandaigua.  Pat was quite ill with cancer, Muscular Dystrophy, and a heart condition. He was someone that I journeyed with through his illnesses, to his death in 2006 at the age of 42.  He and I formed a bond, a friendship that was rooted in a mutual faith. Pat and I had many moments of deep conversation, especially as he continued to move through all that plagued him.

Deana was a strong woman through all of it.   She was there for Pat and she was most certainly there for her children.  Pat’s death was a very sad and difficult death, especially with three young children at home.  But, his children have grown into amazing young men and woman!

John was their oldest child.  He had graduated college and was working in Florida, where his mother longs to move back to!  She’s a native Floridian and is not happy with the cold and snowy winters! John was in the proverbial “prime of his life.”  His death makes no sense. I cannot imagine what Deana is going through. This has to be devastating to her.

And yet, his death draws me back to the book I read and how precious this life that we are given really is.  Nothing is guaranteed, my friends. 5 minutes from now is not guaranteed. We only have right here and right now.  We have all that comes with this moment - our family, our friends, our spouses/partners, our work, our contribution to this world, our struggles and challenges, and our very life!  These are the most precious gifts that we have in this moment, and John’s death reminds me that I am called to full awareness of these gifts, because I don’t know when my life will end.  And, I don’t want to get to the end of my life, and have regrets, like so many of the dying can have.

God has been generous with giving us this one life, each of us.  Let’s take full advantage of all that life offers us, and be the people we are called to be!

Of the many pictures I saw of John on social media, I saw a man who lived life with great passion and energy!  He lived where he wanted to live, and he worked in a vocation that used his gifts and talents. That is what we are supposed to do.  He belonged to a family that loved him and showed him that love. He belonged. He mattered. He achieved. He loved. He lived!

My hope and prayer is that when he crossed over, his father, Pat was right there to give him the biggest kiss and hug.  Pat and John are reminders to me of how life can be over in an instant, for anyone of us. But they are also a reminder to me of how important life is to be lived to the fullest, with great energy, passion, and love.  In the end, it really is all about love.

May you be enjoying eternal happiness with your dad, John.  My love to you both.


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Letting Go....to become

These past 2 days, the readings from scripture are centered around Mary Magdalene and her visit to the tomb.  She is inconsolable, and wants to know where they have put the body of Jesus. She misses her friend, the friend she knew in the flesh.  When he visits her in his resurrected form, she doesn’t recognize him. When he calls her by name, her vision becomes clear and she says, “Rabbouni,” which means teacher.  Jesus then says to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.” She was holding on to him, in his fleshy form, in the way that she knew him. She was clinging to, and pining for, his pre-death form and presence.

In this way, Jesus cannot grow.  He cannot become. He will always be what she knew him to be, in physical form.  Yet, Jesus’ death and resurrection were meant to take what was and make it even more!  He had more to give, beyond the physicality of his earthly existence!

How often do we cling to what we’ve known….about ourselves, about others, about God.  We see what we’ve always seen and nothing more. Growth stops.

And yet, we are always growing.  Always changing. Even at the cellular level, our cells shed and new ones take their place.  Our skin is in a process of constant change.

We can look in the mirror and see the same old, same old.  We can look at our partners and spouses and see the same old, same old.  We can look at our co-workers and see the same old, same old. They never change.  We never change. Or do we? Might these initial Easter days be an invitation to enter into and experience a newness of life?  Of ourselves? Of God? Of others?

Over the past week, I have had the honor of sitting with a friend and several of my co-workers.  They have shared with me their stories filled with the height and depth of emotions, and some very deep intimacy.  I’ve heard about suicide, trauma, brokenness, and shame. I’ve also heard about hope, trust, companionship, and creativity!  They remind me that I’m never really done getting to know them. They have much to tell me. They have much to teach me. I must let go of them as I have known them, and let them become who they are.  Their intimate stories show me more authenticity, integrity, brutal honesty, and new life. They show me resiliency in the face of adversity and accusation. They show me that new life is a constant in this world and that I cannot hold on to them as I have known them.  I’m deeply thankful for their confidence in me and for showing me more dimensions of the Easter resurrection.

They also hold a mirror up to me and remind me that I’m not finished yet either.  I cannot hold on to myself as I’ve always known myself. There are times when I must let go of the things that are just not me anymore, and move into the new life that awaits me.  Cells fall off. New cells grow. Old ways of knowing myself fall away. New ways of knowing who I am emerge. It’s the cycle of life, death and resurrection. I am thankful for the many Mary Magdalene moments that these people over the past few days have given me.  To become more of me. They are truly Easter moments.

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"There you will see him."

Last year, I wrote about my experience of a woman at the Easter Vigil that I saw whose head was bald.  Here is the link to last year’s blog post:

http://www.markabrewer.com/blog/2017/4/16/death-has-no-power

She had been diagnosed with breast cancer and had lost her hair to chemotherapy.  She was, and still is, the image of Easter new life.

I saw her again last evening at the Easter Vigil.  Curly, dark hair now adorns her head. She also shared with me that she doesn’t need to see her oncologist for another 6 months!  What a difference a year makes!

She, once again, becomes the very presence of death and resurrection, of loss and new life.  In the gospel of Mark, chapter 16 last evening, we heard a man speak to Mary Magdalene:

“You see Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified.  He has been raised, he is not here.”

The woman I saw a year ago is no longer here.  She has been transformed, healed, made new. She is resurrection in the flesh!

She reminds me that death (and diagnosis) are not the end.  She reminds me that we are to lean into these moments that challenge and frighten us with great courage, strength, hope and faith. She reminds me that, in moments when I feel I can’t or don’t have the strength to do something, or because it feels too overwhelming, much waits for me on the other side, beyond the fear and mountain that sits before me.  Instead of retreating and going back, she and Jesus remind me that I need to look for new life and hope in new places….within myself, within my faith, and within my world. Looking in the same old, same old only leads to limited sight and a dark tomb. We are called to look beyond, into new territory to find that whom we seek. My church friend sought new life on the other side of cancer, and she got it!!  Jesus sought new life on the other side of death, and he got it too!

Let us be reminded that if we are looking for hope and new life, we need to look and seek for it beyond the empty tomb.  Sometimes we need to go through the depths of darkness in order to see the light anew. It’s always there for us. Waiting to be discovered.  Calling us beyond that which is right in front of us. Thank you, my church friend, for once again being that resurrection presence, and pointing me beyond the tomb to a place filled with hope, light, new hair, and new life!  A place where Jesus lives.

Easter Blessings to you!

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Seeds of Life

“Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat;

but if it dies, it produces much fruit.”    John 12:24

 

These are the words of Jesus this past weekend from John’s gospel.  Of course, it speaks to what his life (as a grain of wheat) must and will do.  His life will die and will produce an abundance of fruit and life! The implication is that in the process of dying, like a seed, an opening up/dying of the old reveals and gives birth to the new/fruit.  Jesus’ life and death will do just what this passage predicts. Instead of dying and diminishing, the life of Christ will be broken open and will increase, spread, and become more. Instead of being contained in human flesh, Jesus will become available for all.  In the very process of dying to himself so that he may enter into deeper communion with God, he becomes more. So must we.

I will think of my relationship with God as one that needs fine tuning or,  more accurately, an overhaul! I need to get fixed, made better, need some additional good qualities, or I just need to be “perfect” before the One who created me.  I can’t go before God looking like this! A sinner! Incomplete! Imperfect! Broken! Ashamed! Not using all of my giftedness! Angry! Jealous! Furious! Hateful!  I need to get rid of all of these blemishes and imperfections in order to even consider entering into a deeper relationship with God.

Or do I?  Jesus seems to be telling us that in order to enter into greater intimacy with God, all we really need to do is….die.  Let ourselves enter into the death process? When we die, all of our human machinations will fall away - the way we scheme, plot and negotiate our way through relationships and life.  These will be unnecessary. What will be needed is the ability to let ourselves die - to all that gets in the way of a deeper relationship with God. All the things that prevent us from being truly ourselves.  All the things that keep our true selves locked inside out of fear or rejection.

Don’t we realize that if we are created in the image and likeness of God, there is that divine seed within us that is waiting to be born through our death while still living?!  Allowing the death process to start long before we actually die will give us the opportunity to experience a newness of life in ourselves and in the world we live in! But, allowing ourselves to start entering into the death process is not easy.  We have lots of “stuff” to get through to get there.

The shame of not being good enough or just plain not being enough is the thing that can prevent us from dying to self.  We feel we need to be more in order to be before God. Maybe Jesus is trying to tell us the very opposite. We need to be less.  We need to die. We need to die to self and to the things that we think God wants us to be, so that we can begin to start shedding the “weight” of this stuff, and begin to see the seed within, the seed that is truly a reflection of you, of me, and of God.  A seed that is just waiting to be born!

What do we need to die to during this Lenten season so that we can become more of who God calls us to be?  How might we start dying to this, allowing ourselves to become less of that stuff, and more of the stuff of God?

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This Little Light of Mine

In today’s gospel reading from John, we are reminded of that famous line that we see on signs and placards from John 3:16: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”  Further in today’s reading from John, we read that Jesus came as light into the world, not to condemn it, but to save it.

Today also is the 15th anniversary of my mother’s death.  When she died, I was told that, on that cold, gray, wintry day, a light came through the part in the curtains and landed on my mother shortly after she died.  It was a sign to all present that she has passed over and was in the hands of God.

Even though this day took on an element of darkness and sadness for me 15 years ago, today it becomes a day of light and peace.  It is a day of remembering the light that my mom was for my family and for me. Her presence, her Italian heritage, her giftedness, and her maternal love are all reminders of how God’s love and light come into our world.

Light has a way of dispelling our darkness.  But, it also has a way of permeating our darkness and showing us what resides in the dark corners of our minds and hearts.  Sometimes, that God-like and mother-like light and love are necessary for us to see what is there in our darkness. The ways that we might be thinking of others and ourselves.  The ways that we have treated others and ourselves. They shine this light not to condemn us, but to help us, redeem us, show us a new way of being.

I am choosing to prefer the light of God and of my mom today.  A light that shines brightly and shows me the way of goodness, of giving of self, of being a presence of light in my little part of the world today.  That light may show me my scars and warts, but it also shows me a much bigger picture of who I am - a God who shows me who I truly am, and a mother who shows me how to live who I am.  Both created me. Both call me to authenticy. All while shining a bright light of love in my life today. Gratitude is my guiding light today, and I’m gonna let it shine!

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C.O.R.E. Fitness

One of my lenten practices has been a focus on my physical health, my vitality.  I want to be in better shape.  I want more energy.  I just want to feel healthier.  Of course, there are many ways to do this.  From committing to the gym and exercise on a routine basis, to monitoring what I ingest.  All of it is involved.

One practice I’m trying to incorporate daily is working on my core.  I am attempting to do a plank everyday for at least 1 minute.  I am trying to increase that time as I go through lent, trying to get to 3 minutes before the end of lent.  I’m also committing to sit ups daily.  Core exercises have many benefits.  They help with balance and stability.  They help strengthen back muscles.  They help with lifting and bending.  There are so many pluses to a good core.

However, I am also trying to focus on my C.O.R.E. - Center Of Relevancy and Energy.  That’s the place in me where I reside.  Where my true self is.  Where my gifts, talents, strengths and potential are.  That C.O.R.E. is essential to my well being too.  It helps me find balance in my life when it gets out of whack.  It gives me strength when I need it most.  It helps me lift up myself and others when life throws a big pile of poo on us!

It’s the very center of my being that gives me purpose.  It’s where I find my relevancy, my why.  It’s where I get energy for the day and tasks that lie ahead of me.

My C.O.R.E. connects me to my God, my spiritual center, my higher power.  It is the place that centers me when life is throwing me off center.  The “plank” that I do for this C.O.R.E. is an exercise that I hold for longer than a minute.  In fact, I try to hold it for at least 20 minutes.  It’s my daily prayer and meditation practice.  It’s the practice where I focus solely on me and my connection to something bigger than myself - God.  I hold it, sometimes painfully and shaking, so that I can become stronger in my true essence.  I hold it so that I can be reminded (yet, again) of my life purpose.  I hold it so that I can be a healthy presence in a world so in need of healing.

How are you working your C.O.R.E. today?  And what is being strengthened in you as you work your C.O.R.E.?  What is your relevancy?

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Dazzling White

I had the blessing and opportunity to be a Confirmation sponsor for Mariah about 5 years ago.  I was beyond thrilled to be asked!  She is a mature, kind, smart and compassionate young woman. And faithful.  She was very ready to be confirmed.

Since then, I have been privileged to watch her grow and  mature into an even greater high school senior, getting ready to “leave the nest” this year.  As she discerns her life journey and path, she is focusing on the field of medicine and nursing.  At one point recently, I imagined her as she is today.  Someone who doesn’t know much about either nursing or medicine.  But then I imagined her a few years down the road, and saw a woman in the proverbial “white coat,” talking with patients, diagnosing illnesses, prescribing medications, and being the compassionate, loving person that I know her to be.

I thought of Mariah and her “white coat” this weekend as I heard the reading from the gospel of Mark about the transfiguration of Jesus before Peter, James and John.  At one point, Jesus’ clothes are described as “dazzling white,” as he is transfigured before his friends.  That dazzling white appearance for me is the manifestation of his inner essence, his divine nature, his Messiahship, his true nature.  What is on the inside is now being manifested on the outside.  I feel the same for Mariah as I envisioned her in that white coat moment.  Her inner essence of who she is was coming through as dazzling white in the form of a white coat.  In that white coat, her true inner essence comes through - a woman of compassion and strength who has the potential to influence, save lives, and heal many.  Whatever her future may hold, I believe it will be filled with a woman whose white coat will bring light, peace, healing and compassion to those most in need of it.

You see, living our calling or our purpose involves becoming “dazzling white,” like Jesus.  Manifesting the true inner essence, the true nature of who we are!  Allowing it to be seen by all so that our giftedness now gets manifested and purposed into the world. And when we put on our “white coat,” the world is changed, made better, healed just a little more.  Life is given and shared.  The Spirit becomes flesh once again

How many of us even know what is the fabric of our “white coat?”  What makes us the fibers of that coat?  What are those gifts that you and I are called to share with the world, so that we help bring “heaven to earth?”  What might it be like to stand in front of the mirror and see ourselves in “dazzling white?”  Might it give us a glimpse into what God sees in us?  Who knows.  Maybe once we ask to see it, we might start radiating the “white coat” of our purpose and potential.

Thank you, Mariah, for reminding me to put on my white coat every day.

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